Suicide bomber 'wanted to avenge Hamas HQ bombing'
A Palestinian suicide bomber who killed himself and 14
others in a Jerusalem pizzeria wanted to avenge a recent Israeli attack
on Hamas headquarters.
Devout Muslim Izzedine al-Masri, 23, wandered into the
packed Sbarro restaurant in downtown Jerusalem and detonated explosives
strapped to his body.
His family said al-Masri, a member of the Islamic
militant group Hamas, had been hinting that he would become a "martyr".
The rocket attack on the Hamas headquarters in the West Bank town of
Nablus killed eight people including two children.
Al-Masri's family have held a wake in the village of
Aqaba on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Jenin.
father, Shaheel, flanked by his seven remaining sons, said he was proud
Shaheel Al-Masri said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "is continuing
the policy of killing our people and my son succeeded in carrying out a
He added that his son was a devout Muslim who had
participated in Hamas rallies and funeral marches during the last 10
months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
About a month, Izzedine had begun dropping hints that he
was about to become a "martyr," as Islamic militants refer to suicide
bombers, the elder al-Masri said.
Israeli media reports said Izzedine al-Masri had tied the
detonator string to his elbow to enable him to trigger the explosives
even if apprehended.
The reports also said
authorities had specific warnings about the impending attack
and that it remained unclear why more was not done to try to stop the
Izzedine al-Masri left home on Wednesday, telling his
family he was going to stay with friends in another West Bank town for a
while. Before his death, al-Masri posed for a photo showing him wearing
a green Hamas headband and holding an assault rifle.
refuse to arrest activists
report appeared in the Guardian (UK) three days before the massacre
at the Sbarro restaurant. One of Malki's murderer was one of the named
'activists' on the Israeli list rejected by the Palestinian Authority.]
Special report: Israel and the Middle East
Monday August 6, 2001
The Palestinian Authority today refused to arrest people named on a list
of seven activists that the Israeli government claims pose the greatest
threat of terrorist attack in Israel.
The Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo,
said that Israel would have to arrest armed Jewish settlers before his
organisation would pursue people named on the Israeli list.
Israeli security forces have killed 50 people under a
strategy of targeting Palestinian activists they say are responsible for
orchestrating attacks on Israelis.
The Israeli army claimed to have thwarted a suicide bomb
attack when it arrested a suspected bomber earlier today.
The army said he was on his way to Tel Aviv, where he
planned to mount a suicide bomb attack.
Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has refused to
agree to Israeli demands that it arrest about 100 suspected militants.
Israel has responded by targeting individuals, a move
that opponents describe as state-sponsored assassinations.
Even ardent supporters of Israel, including the United
States, have criticised the policy.
Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, insisted that the
policy would remain in force unless the Palestinian leader, Yasser
Arafat, reins in Islamic militants.
"One must understand that Arafat could avoid it," Sharon
told Fox News on Sunday. "What [Arafat] has to do is just to stop them."
Sharon also reiterated his opposition to Palestinian
calls for international observers to monitor the actions of Israeli
"We will not be able to accept international forces or
international observers," he said.
Three Palestinians and one Israeli woman were killed as
the violence escalated on Sunday.
A Palestinian gunman was shot dead in Tel Aviv after he
opened fire on crowds outside the defence ministry, wounding 10 people,
most of them soldiers.
Another gunman in the West Bank opened fire on three
vehicles carrying Israelis near the Jewish settlement of Alfei Menashe,
killing a pregnant woman and injuring three others.
Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian who they
said was laying a bomb near another Jewish settlement in the West Bank,
Einav. Israeli helicopters also killed a member of the Hamas militant
group in a missile attack on his car in the town of Tukarem.
The suspected suicide bomber arrested today was not
carrying explosives, but was on his way to collect a bomb that he
planned to detonate in Tel Aviv, a defence ministry spokesman said.
Israel's defence minister, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, feared a
rash of bomb attacks in the country's most populous city.
"Tel Aviv has turned into a target because there are
hundreds of people on every corner," Mr Ben-Eliezer told Israeli radio.
In June, the city suffered the bloodiest attack in the past 10 months of
Israeli-Palestinian fighting, when a suicide bomber killed 21 young
people at a nightclub.
26th August 2001
LEGACY OF PAIN
Anguish, Not Pride, Fills Parents of Suicide Bomber
, TIMES STAFF WRITER
West Bank -- By the norms that exist in Palestinian society after 11 months of
bloody conflict with
, Shuhail and
should be proud. Their son,
Izzedine, became an instant Palestinian hero the day he walked into a pizza
restaurant crowded with families in downtown
and detonated explosives that
killed him and 15 other people.
But the mood in the Masri household is one of profound sorrow at the terrible
way their child chose to die.
"There is no mother who wants to see her son lost,"
said. Any mother who says she
rejoices in her son's death does so only because "she is obliged to say
such things" by a society that celebrates such attacks as the ultimate
patriotic sacrifice, Masri said. "If he would have come to me and told me
of his plans, I would have locked my arms around him and stopped him from doing
this," she said. "I would have told him: 'I don't want
. I don't want land. I just want
you with me.'"
, a wealthy man who owns
restaurants, shops and land around the
, said he grieves not only for
his son but for his son's victims.
"This wound is so deep in me," he said. "I didn't wish this on
anybody--not on Jews, or French or English.
"As I feel the pain of the loss of my son, I can imagine how the parents
who lost children that day feel for their children."
The Masris' expressions of grief and empathy are rare in a conflict that has so
polarized Israelis and Palestinians that each side has difficulty seeing the
other as anything but an enemy and itself as anything but a victim.
To Israelis and the outside world, Palestinian suicide bombers commit acts of
inexplicable viciousness against innocent civilians. But to increasing numbers
of Palestinians, the bombers are the ultimate patriots.
They are respected not only for being willing to die for the cause of liberating
the Palestinians, but for inflicting pain and suffering on Israelis. The death
tolls from their attacks--even if they include children, as in the pizzeria
bombing--are seen as a grim evening of the score for the hundreds of
Palestinians who have died and the thousands who have been injured since
fighting broke out in September.
Hamas Carries Out Majority of Attacks
Activists from the militant Muslim organizations Islamic Jihad and Hamas boast
that they have more volunteers for suicide missions inside
than they can handle. There have
been more than 20 suicide-bombing attacks on Israelis since September, the vast
y of them carried out by Hamas.
Dozens of people have died in these attacks, and hundreds have been wounded.
"These are not acts of suicide--they are martyrdom," said
, a Hamas spokesman.
"Someone who commits suicide does so out of deep frustration, deep
depression. They are disgusted with life, so they want to cut short their lives
to end their suffering. In the case of martyrs, they are serving a national
goal. Most of them are young people, and they do not suffer from any
psychological or social troubles."
Typically, parents, other relatives and friends of suicide bombers say they are
proud of the bomber's final act. His sacrifice, and the terror he inflicts on
Israelis, brings honor to his family, his village and his people. Although
Islamic scholars continue to debate whether Islam allows such attacks, large
segments of Palestinian society believe that the bomber's act earns a spot in
paradise for him and dozens of his relatives. Palestinians rarely express
remorse for the civilians who die in the attacks.
Those who attend a bomber's funeral are supposed to display happiness, not
grief. Groups of young men dressed in white to signify their readiness to
perform their own suicide attacks are always in attendance.
carried out his
bombing, in which half a dozen children were among the victims, Palestinians
celebrated by passing out sweets in Jenin, the town closest to his village.
Hundreds of people crowded into his family's home to congratulate the parents
and their remaining 11 offspring.
The crowds helped because they kept his mind off his loss,
said, but he was not comforted
by their approval of what his son had done.
"A son is very dear to you," Masri said. "I tell my children now,
from the youngest to the oldest, 'We just want you to go on with this life.'
Those men who strap bombs to our children--why don't they do it to themselves?
Why do they ask our children to kill themselves?"
The 22-year-old Izzedine had no record of what the Israelis call "security
offenses" before he walked into the Sbarro restaurant at the intersection
of King George V Street and Jaffa Road during the lunch-hour rush Aug. 9. His
parents say that the day before the bombing, he spent the night away from home
for the first time in his life.
Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and published posters of the young
man in military gear, brandishing a pair of rifles.
said his son looked like a
stranger to him in the picture. As far as he knew, Izzedine didn't know how to
use a gun. Their son, the Masris said, was deeply religious. He prayed daily at
the village mosque with his father and recently took to listening to tapes of
Koranic verses at home. He grew a beard a few years ago and shrugged off his
mother's pleas that he shave it off.
Her son swore to her that he was not involved in any political organization or
militia, she said, and he had recently asked her to start looking for a bride
for him. But he had also taken to talking of how beautiful paradise is and how
important it is not to be attached to the things of this world.
Although he didn't finish high school,
Masri worked in one of his father's restaurants in Jenin
and was expected to one day run a restaurant on his own. His father's prosperity
assured him of a secure future and a position of respect in their village.
Unlike many of the young men who have grown up impoverished in the refugee camps
and Gaza Strip, Masri could hope for a better life.
said she was surprised when her
son told her he was going to Ramallah to visit a friend Aug. 8.
"But I thought he must have made a friend at the restaurant," she
Hours after the family heard on the radio that there had been an attack in
, a relative phoned to say that
Hamas was claiming that Masri was the bomber.
said the shock was so great, she
went momentarily blind and collapsed on the floor of her home.
"The leaders, Israeli and Palestinian, should find a solution to prevent
this sadness that is inflicted on the hearts of mothers," she said.
"If they gave me the whole world now, would I be happy again?"
'Was He Brainwashed? I Don't Know'
said he has racked his brain
trying to figure out when and how his son could have been recruited into Hamas.
He has agonized over the fact that Izzedine never hinted to him that he was
considering carrying out a suicide mission. He is convinced that it was
religious conviction that led his son to carry out his attack.
"Izzedine did not lose any friends or relatives in this intifada," he
said. "But he was aware of these killings taking place, of the massacres by
the Israelis, of the pain and the fear of his people.
"Was he brainwashed? I
don't know. He had religious conviction. He believed that God will take
him into paradise if he did this thing. I don't believe that he was right, but I pray that God
will grant him paradise."
A Palestinian 'Martyr' (!)
Izzadin Al-Masri is
listed as a martyr (number 601) on the website of the Palestinian
National Information Center, of the State Information Service, of the
Palestinian National Authority. Note that the heading is: "The Martyrs
... Names of Al Aqsa Martyrs"